Jeremy Evans’ dunk face is worthy of recognition. But is his game worthy of one of the Jazz’s first Trimester Awards? Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Image
Each season, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein comes out with his trimester awards–recognizing the NBA’s high achievers–always a fun read. Make sure to give it a perusal when it comes out. Because this is Salt City Hoops, why not have some trimester awards for the Utah Jazz? And like Stein, this is based on the thoughts and votes of this “committee of one.”
Most Improved Player: Given the fact that every player is filling a different role than they did last season, there were numerous candidates for this honor. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are clearly the players head coach Tyrone Corbin is relying on the most and both have taken nice strides in their progression (with many more strides yet to come). Enes Kanter had a stellar start to the season before his injury curtailed things a bit. He’s now trying to regain that same confidence.
Jeremy Evans was considered here, but this award goes to Alec Burks. He simply has been tremendous (Laura Thompson reflected on his play recently). While he had a few weeks where he struggled, he has simply taken his game to an entirely new level. In December, the athletic guard is cutting and slashing his way to 16.8 PPG (50.4% FGs, 47.6% 3s, 79.4% FTs) along with 3.2 RPG and 2.9 APG. Take out his two subpar games last week versus San Antonio and Denver (cherrypicking stats is fun!), and Burks climbs to 19.3 PPG (56.8% FGs, 62.5% 3s), 3.4 APG and 3.4 RPG. Taking a closer look, he has increased his points/36 minutes from 14.3 last season to 17.1 this year. His AST% has improved from 13.0 to 17.0, while his TOV% has gone from 14.3 to 12.1. Corbin made a nice move playing him predominantly at the shooting guard position, which plays to his strengths as a scorer, while still enabling him ample opportunities to create for his teammate.
For a team in need of some good news, the Utah Jazz received some yesterday: rookie point guard Trey Burke made his official NBA debut versus the New Orleans Pelicans. While the highly-anticipated return by Burke from his broken finger is understandably receiving the most attention and accompanying headlines, there was a second boost in morale in the form of Jeremy Evans also being deemed healthy.
All eyes are naturally be focused on Burke, but many ardent Jazz fans are eager to see how Evans performs this season. During the off-season, given the turnover on Utah’s roster (particularly in the front court), it was believed that the high-flying forward might finally have a spot in the regular line-up. Now will be the chance to see if that happens.
All this leads to some big questions. Is Jeremy Evans a bonafide rotational player in the NBA? Can he be more than a situational guy who has the knack for making highlight reel plays?
Evans is a tremendous joy to watch. He is always flashing a smile and it’s clear that he has a love for the game of basketball. He seems to be the consummate locker room presence, always encouraging his teammates and never causing a bit of discord. His sheer athleticism and out-of-this-world leaping ability quickly made him a fan favorite. Earl Watson’s alley was nothing without Jeremy Evans’ oop. While some pundits minimize his Slam Dunk championship due to a somewhat diluted field of competitors, he still won it, fair-and-square. He’s had his fair share of in-game highlights, too. Who can forget this one?
And while it didn’t count, here’s this, as well.
Through his first three seasons, Evans has seen minimal court time. In fact, his playing time has decreased each passing season. All in all, he has registered a mere 895 minutes in 115 games–7.8 MPG. While his playing time has been inconsistent, Evans has managed to produce when his name has been called. He boasts a career 64.7 percent shooting mark for his career, while putting up 2.7 PPG and 1.8 RPG in his stints. There have been games where foul trouble or injuries paved the way for some appearances and he simply injected energy into the game.
He is an advanced stats’ darling. Over his three campaigns, Evans has a True Shooting Percentage of .659 and an Effective Field Goal Percentage of .647. He earns trips to the free throw line, too, as evidenced by his .750 Free Throw Attempt Rate last year. A smart shot-blocker with fine defensive instincts, Evans has a 4.8 Block Percentage, including 8.8 his second season. While some reserves have some sparkling advanced stats, he has produced his consistently over three seasons, which shows his potential to do some good things.
Evans could possibly play both forward positions for spells. Power forward has been where he’s logged the most time thus far in his career. While his slight frame causes issues inside–he can get pushed around and sometimes accrues fouls as a result–his speed and agility partially compensate. For him to play the small forward spot, Evans will have to evolve a bit. In the summer league and preseason, Evans displayed a much-improved jump shot, though his handle is a bit spotty. He will need to show that he can keep defenses honest if he is to assume some time at the three.
The Jazz’s front court depth could lead to Evans seeing an increased role. As expected, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are getting the lion’s share of playing time. Richard Jefferson has had a mini rejuvenation, but has not been consistent. Marvin Williams’ return has helped and he’s seen time as a stretch four. Mike Harris has been a surprise, but is limited. Given this line-up, Evans could demand minutes once he gets more into game-shape and could quickly take the time that Harris has been given. It’ll then be up to him to demonstrate what he is capable of in a more expansive role.
This season has been branded by some as a season of discovery– a chance to see what each player on the roster can do. Every individual on the team has or will assume a new niche in the rotation, and Jeremy Evans is not an exception. Will he become a rotational player? We will find out over the coming months.
Tuesday’s preseason opener against the Golden State Warriors may have shed some light on how the bench positional battles will unfold–at least to start the season. Then again, it was one game and a preseason one at that. Add to the equation two returning-from-injury guys in Marvin Williams and Brandon Rush and thing could get interesting really quickly. We covered the starters, so let’s turn our attention to the bench.
BACK-UP POINT GUARD
Candidates: John Lucas III, Alec Burks. To a much lesser extent: Ian Clark, Scott Machado
This spot has some intrigue to me. Lucas has said all the right things since signing on the dotted line, and it appears that he is eager to serve in the mentor role for Burke. He is not the purest of point guards, but has experience that should suit him fine in Utah. Against the Warriors, Lucas was often the best player on the court. His shot selection was excellent and his hustle and enthusiasm, contagious. It was telling that the Jazz brass sent Burks to Spokane to work with Stockton, as well. He played minutes as the back-up last season, and while he had his moments, his performance was largely unspectacular. That said, the talent is there to be another ball handler and facilitator and he could get some extra PT here. A tandem of Burks and Lucas could be exciting and disruptive on defense. An interesting guy to watch during pre-season will be Ian Clark and whether he can play spot point guard minutes as needed. Machado has a good chance of making the team, but if so, will most likely anchor the bench.
Prediction: John Lucas III
BACK-UP SHOOTING GUARD
Candidates: Alec Burks, Brandon Rush. Outside chance: Ian Clark
Tuesday evening, Burks came off the pine. That said, at least for now, I’ll stick with my prediction that he earns the starting nod. I could indeed see that possibly changing when Rush is fully healthy (in that scenario, I see Hayward starting at small forward and Richard Jefferson moving to a reserve role). Either way, Burks or Rush would be depended upon to provide leadership and scoring in the second unit.
Prediction: Brandon Rush
BACK-UP SMALL FORWARD
Candidates: Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Jeremy Evans. Don’t forget: Dominic McGuire
Again, Jefferson got the opening night nod at the three. This is another situation in which I think health will factor heavily. It makes sense why Tyrone Corbin went this way last evening, especially seeing the results of Burks as the featured scorer off the bench. So, to remain consistent, my money is still on Hayward being the starter and then watching an interesting battle between Williams and Jefferson. Marvin has more to offer at this point in their careers. Jeremy Evans could get spot minutes at the small forward, especially if he continues to show a much-improved jump shot. Dominic McGuire not only has a great chance of making the final roster, but being called upon as a situational player. He does a lot of the small things that coaches love.
Prediction: Marvin Williams
BACK-UP POWER FORWARD
Candidates: Jeremy Evans, Marvin Williams.
Evans has always been wildly productive during the spot minutes he’s played his first three seasons. Against Golden State, he displayed the full repertoire of what he can potentially offer as a rotational player. He hustled, crashed the boards, played solid defense, and showed offensive abilities. While he may still struggle against bulkier opponents in the post, his length and ridiculous leaping ability might more than compensate. This role is his for the taking and Corbin sounds very happy with his progress. Williams could fill the need for a stretch four against teams that employ a big front court.
Prediction: Jeremy Evans
Candidates: Andris Biedrins, Rudy Gobert
While Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter will man most of the big man minutes, this will be a battle to watch. Against the Warriors, the veteran Biedrins got the first opportunity, but the young rookie played more minutes. The reports have been positive on both, with Corbin expressing admiration for the growth Gobert has already shown. This one could initially be a toss-up, but I think the French center will earn some minutes in the pivot.
Prediction: Rudy Gobert
Lastly, with 13 players on the roster with contracts (including Clark’s partially guaranteed deal), there could be two more who start the season in a Jazz uniform. Local media has mentioned the possibility of carrying a maximum 15 players–especially with recovering injuries being a factor. Should that be the case, McGuire and Machado might have the edge right now, with swingman Justin Holiday also being in the mix.
For the past several years, Jazz players have been spending weeks at a time during the summer training with the Peak Performance Project, or P3, in Santa Barbara. I sat down with several members of the P3 staff at their facility to find out what exactly they do with the Jazz and other NBA players. This is part two of a two-part series. You can read Part 1 here.
Over the summer, NBA teams are prohibited from holding “mandatory” workouts, at least as far as the organization is concerned. But that didn’t stop the Jazz from getting the majority of their team together for a stint in Santa Barbara this summer with P3.
The unique relationship that the Jazz organization has developed with P3 goes back to the original days with Paul Millsap and Ronnie Brewer. Ever since those two started the excursions down to sunny, southern California, more and more players have joined in each year. Not all of them were as open to the idea initially. When Deron Williams was still with the team, he was one of the players who needed to be “converted” to their style, as Dr. Marcus Elliott put it. Since workouts are not required, participation is purely based on the players themselves. After learning about P3′s methods, there’s a reason why more and more players are joining the party.
Williams became such a believer, that he has since introduced the Brooklyn organization to P3. In fact, as you look at the complete roster of P3 athletes, many of them have connections back to Utah.
The staff at P3 credited Jazz trainers Gary Briggs and Mark McKown especially for fostering such a fruitful partnership and had nothing but good things to say about the entire organization. This might be the off-season, but Dennis Lindsey, Ty Corbin and even Randy Rigby have all been down for visits.
In order to track the best results, P3 tries to get athletes to their facility first thing after each season, and then again before the start of the next season. That way, they can grade both off-season and in-season improvements.
The Jazz players to attend this summer were Alec Burks, Jeremy Evans, Derrick Favors, Trey Burke, Enes Kanter, John Lucas III, Brandon Rush, Ian Clark, and most recently Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert and Andres Biedrins. The latter three were in Santa Barbara as recently as last Thursday and Friday. The only members not to participate were Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson.
In talking with Dr. Elliott and staff, they were very cautious as to which information they shared with me. Because of relationships with different players and organizations, they stopped themselves several times before sharing confidential test results. Some information they gather could drastically affect contract negotiations for certain athletes. If, for example, they forecasted health issues with a certain player, that information could impact an organization’s desire to sign a particular player. They did have interesting insights about nearly every player though. But who has shown the most improvement?
“Alec [Burks] was the biggest winner,” said Elliott. The staff really admired him for his work over the past couple years. He has apparently improved in a number of areas from hip stability, knee position and trunk strength, all of which affect quickness. They recognize the unique opportunity Burks will have this season to finally get steady minutes, potentially even as a starter. He is considered one of their more “elastic” athletes. He reached a vertical height of 12′ 2.5″ during an approach this summer. When he first arrived in May 2012 he maxed out at 11′ 8.5″. That height is especially worth noting considering that he also weighs 11 more pounds than when he started.
When I think of Jeremy Evans and his role on the Utah Jazz for the upcoming 2013-2014, I think of Stephen Root’s character Milton Waddams from the cult classic Office Space.
No, I don’t see the almost impossibly nice Evans as a softly-muttering sad sack who will eventually commit arson to avenge the wrongs done to him. However, one scene in particular sums up the analogy perfectly. In this scene, cake is being passed around to celebrate evil Initech boss Bill Lumberg’s birthday. Milton takes a piece and is about to dig in, when he is accosted by another co-worker to pass the cake around. Milton meekly protests that last time cake was served in the office he didn’t get a piece but passes the cake to the next employee. The pieces of cake are continued to be passed around until predictably, the cake runs out, everyone but Milton enjoying a piece.
Jeremy Evans is Milton Waddams, and cake is playing time for the 2013-14 season.
Prior to the upcoming season, Evans’ lack of minutes was understandable and easily explained. Evans was buried behind four extremely talented frontcourt players in Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, all of whom deserved playing time over Evans. With the departures of Millsap and Jefferson earlier this summer, it seemed the time had come for Evans to be thrust into a consistent role with significant floor time.
You don’t get to eat that cake just yet, Milton.
A few issues present themselves with giving Evans serious run. First, the starting frontcourt is locked up, with the dynamic duo of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter filling the void left by Millsap and Jefferson. It seems simple to just promote Evans to third big and be done with it, but it doesn’t seem to be quite that simple. If Utah brings Evans off the bench as the third big, he’ll either always be playing alongside one of the starters or in tandem with another 2nd-tier big man. If Utah shortens it’s rotation in the frontcourt to three players, Favors and Kanter’s minutes would see a huge increase, likely a larger increase than the Jazz front office wants to see. Yes, we all want to see what Favors and Kanter can do this year with legitimate starter’s minutes, but we also don’t want them to wear down over the course of an already-lost season.
The other option that seems more likely is to play Evans with either Rudy Gobert or newly-acquired center Andris Biedrins. While aesthetically amusing to watch, Evans and Gobert together would have serious issues scoring the ball and could be pushed around by bigger and bulkier frontcourt foes. Logic also dictates the Jazz have much more interest in giving Gobert valuable NBA experience than giving it to Evans, considering the large chunk of change the Miller family plunked down to acquire Gobert on draft night.
Evans and Biedrins isn’t tremendously more appealing considering how one-dimensional the pairing would be. Yes, the defense would likely be very good to great, but the offense would range from anemic to completely nonexistent. Some may question giving Biedrins, whose game fell off a cliff last year, playing time in favor of Evans, but there are a few logical reasons this would be done. First, Biedrins has showed his ability to play at or near an All-Star level in the past. Yes, his dumpster fire of a season last year seems to indicate that his better days are a distant memory, but a mini-renaissance on a new team and with a new coaching staff that has every reason to right the Biedrins ship is not out of the question. Revitalizing the lanky Latvian could make him a valuable asset the Jazz could deal at the trade deadline, either as simply an expiring contract or as added frontcourt depth and defensive prowess to a contending team, for even more assets. Getting paid to take on Biedrins and getting paid to trade him away would make GM Dennis Lindsey a folk hero in the Beehive State.
Evans’ numbers per-36-minutes are unsurprisingly good (12.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks), as Evans has always been very productive in the small amount of run he’s gotten so far. There are arguments to be made on both sides whether or not those numbers would carry over to an increased workload against better NBA talent. Evans also has to be the undisputed king of NBA preseason highlights.
Remember this one?
How about this one?
It’s no wonder Evans’ supporters are clamoring for a prominent role after watching him demolish Ronny Turiaf and Gerald Wallace. Evans minutes should increase this year, but to what extent? Is it improbable that we could see a Rudy Gobert/Andris Biedrins 2nd-team frontcourt succeed? What if Utah splits the second-team post position minutes evenly between the Gobert, Biedrins and Evans? This is not even mentioning the postulating that Marvin Williams could be utilized as a stretch 4 off the bench, further adding to the logjam behind Favors and Kanter.
Sorry Milton. Not only did Lumbergh take your red stapler, but he could also be relocating your office to the basement.
The Jazz continued to roll last night, picking up their first five-game winning streak of the season and handling the visiting Portland Trail Blazers in fine fashion [recap]. There was a lot to like, including 24 points and 10 rebounds from Al Jefferson, the newly-named Western Conference Player of the Week. The rejuvenated Mo Williams followed up Randy Foye’s team record 8 threes on Saturday night with 6-of-7 shooting from three and 20 points.
The thing everybody wanted to talk about though was the ridiculous no-look lob from Jamaal Tinsley to Jeremy Evans in the fourth quarter. As was pointed out by Matt Harpring on the broadcast, Evans is somehow three feet behind the three-point line when the ball is lobbed by Tinsley. That’s a lot of ground to cover.
Shoutout to SB Nation’s Mike Prada for the upload and the Salt Lob City moniker.
Besides being one of the nicest humans in history and reigning NBA Dunk Champion, Jeremy Evans is an impressive artist. Earl Watson posted the picture above that Evans said he drew sometime last summer. Evans said he was working on having prints available soon. Can’t wait.
No one was more talked-about in the NBA on Thursday than Jeremy Evans after his spectacular end-to-end-to-end block/dunk/steal exhibition on Wednesday against the Clippers. (Favorite headline: “Jeremy Evans is now the majority owner of Ronny Turiaf.”) Is it possible that Evans knew we were preparing to feature him at #13 in JazzRank? How else to explain the perfect storm of Evansonian Phenomena?
Somehow, on his chosen day, fate allowed him the opportunity to do the three things he is uniquely good at–ridiculous blocks and ridiculous dunks and ridiculous sprints–in one sequence with no one in the world but Ronny Turiaf to stop him. We already posted this video after the game, and you’ve seen it posted everywhere else, but I can’t help myself:
I don’t care how many times you’ve watched this. It’s worth watching a hundred more times. Why? The play itself it worth more than a few views, but looking for everyone’s reaction is worth that and more. In fact, I’m going to rank the top five reactions:
5. Enes Kanter: Started yelling after the dunk and did the walk-into-your-teammate-while-yelling thing right after the ball was whistled dead. He would rank higher but I’m pretty sure this is what he does after every play.
4. DeMarre Carroll: DeMarre Carroll seems like he always knows exactly how to react. He’s a true professional. He’s even a professional in his mega-dunk reactions.
3. Alec Burks: He gets all the way up to third just for looking so ticked off after he congratulates Jeremy–in a “let’s do that to them 1000 more times right now” way. Burks has that killer instinct and appreciates the swagger of a Jeremy Evans mega-dunk. He also gets props because he ran the floor really well and then just stopped because he clearly thought, “Jeremy Evans is more likely to pull up from half court and crank a 50-footer than he is to pass the ball in this situation.”
2. Randy Foye: Watch the slo-mo replay at 0:26. One of the many hidden treasures of this clip is seeing a shocked Foye watch Evans sail through the air as his expression turns to astonishment. It totally redeems him from not hustling down the floor on the fast break.
1. The Color Commentator (Michael Smith, I think): The most impressive reaction to Jeremy Evans’ dunk, far and away, goes to Smith (a BYU alum, by the way), who was so blown away by the play that he temporarily went completely insane. His comments after the dunk happened: 1) “That was with the off hand, too!” First of all, this is totally not true in any sense. Evans blocked with his right hand, dribbled with his right hand, and dunked with his right hand, and he actually does everything related to basketball with his right hand, so… huh? Second, as a Clippers commentator, does he really pride himself on knowing whether Jeremy Evans is left- or right-handed? Third, who reacts to a mega-block/dunk combo like that? I’m full of questions about this. 2) “It is not that often that your teammates react to a play like this.” What could this possibly mean? No one knows. Maybe he meant that it isn’t often that teammates react to this kind of play, which obviously isn’t true and is a completely nonsensical thing to say. Maybe he meant that it isn’t often that teammates react in the manner that they were reacting, which makes a little more sense but is still a very weird thing to say. Then the clip ends as he starts talking about Evans’ elbow and comparing him to Julius Erving. Winner!
Stat to Watch: Field goal percentage outside the basket area. Last year, Evans shot 1-of-11 outside the basket area. As in, for the entire season. We can all love Jeremy Evans but if he can’t score at all except for his dunks, he can’t be a rotation player.
Three Potential Outcomes of the Season:
1. After an injury or two thins out the mighty Jazz front line, Evans gets a chance to show his stuff in the rotation. Suddenly putting in 12 minutes a game, Evans validates his fan support by averaging 6 points, 4 rebounds, and a block. He channels this new-found success into a magically appearing jump shot, which only goes in 30% of the time but is still way better than 1-of-11. As the injuries subside and he goes back to the bench, the #FreeJeremy campaign consumes the Utah Jazz twitterverse.
2. He rides the pine all season and mostly just looks forward to the chance to defend his dunk contest championship. He is by far the most impressive dunk artist there, but only takes second because of politics (and partly because everyone is a little embarrassed that he won last year despite having only one great dunk). He still puts together enough amazingly athletic plays across the season that his highlight reel that pops up on YouTube next summer will be three minutes long.
3. The Jazz are plagued by injuries of a different kind. Ten games into the season, the Jazz Bear breaks his tailbone by falling backwards off of those crazy stilts he sometimes walks around on. Looking for a replacement, the Jazz decide to search internally. Jeremy Evans, suddenly filled with inspiration, applies for the job and dominates the “interview” by doing a double somersault dunk off of the trampolines. Instead of Jazz Bear, there becomes Jazz Jeremy. And everyone loves it. He is inducted to the Mascot Hall of Fame by the end of February and Disney purchases the movie rights to the story by June.
UPDATE: Check out Jeremy Evans discussing The Play before practice on Friday. Evans points out that he and Turiaf share the same agent and that he respected Ronny at least hustling to get back on defense. He also said that the best comment came from his cousin, who suggested he should have given his jersey to Turiaf afterwards.
No grades from this game, even though I was thoroughly entertained. The only thing that needs to be remembered for posterity is the Jeremy Evans Block/Dunk/Steal end-to-end-to-end play shown above.
The boxscore shows that the Jazz missed a lot of free throws (20-31) and missed a lot of open shots (33-81) and probably only stayed in the game due to hitting eight threes (shoutout to John Hollinger). Randy Foye lead the team in scoring with with 17 in his return to Staples, and Enes Kanter again lead the team in rebounds with nine. Check the nice writeup by Kevin Arnovitz.
Even though the Clippers were fresh off a big trip to China, it looked like the Jazz were the jet-lagged team. Lots of fumbled catches, poor passes, silly turnovers, and defensive lapses. In other words, it was a very preseasony preseason game from an execution standpoint. What I liked, however, was the chippy vibe. It may have been a meaningless exhibition, but I liked the way Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap were going at each other like it was a playoff game. I’ve been saying for a minute that the Clippers are more unlikable than the Lakers, and Wednesday’s game seemed to show that the Jazz players feel similarly. With all the Griffin faces and complaining and whining, it’s remarkable that no one just walks up and slaps him, just to tell him to snap out of it.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy watching Griffin and Chris Paul do their thing–I just don’t think anyone wants to watch Griffin transform his on-court persona into a horrible amalgamation of the worst parts of Tim Duncan’s incredulous stare, Kevin Garnett’s intimidation tactics and bullying, and Chris Paul’s victim playing and flopping. Come on, Blake. You’re better than this.
The only upside to his nonsense is the budding rivalry between the two teams. Luckily for us, the two teams meet again on Saturday in Salt Lake. Can’t wait.
Jeremy Evans may look super young, but he’s grown enough to marry the lovely Korrie Walters yesterday in Savannah, Georgia. By all accounts it was a beautiful day, attended by coach Tyrone Corbin and Jazz-bestie Gordon Hayward. Check out some pictures from the wedding and reception that were posted by friends and family in the wedding party.
Photo by Dante Corbin | @panache6
Photo by Dante Corbin | @panache6
Photo by @mrsconception
Photo by @mrsconception
Photo by @mrsconception
Photo by @mrsconception
Photo by @mrsconception
Photo by @mrsconception
Photo by @mrsconception
Photo by @yearoftheball / http://instagram.com/p/OxqcBariKz/
Gordon Hayward, Kolbi Killingback, Korrie and Jeremy Evans. Photo by @kolbik http://instagram.com/p/OxrdBhAvSb/
Photo by Dante Corbin | @panache6
Photo by Corbin’s wife Dante on Instragram | panache6